Planting those fall bulbs to give you a gorgeous spring flower display, is like finding money in a jacket that you haven’t worn in a while. We know we planted them, but seem to forget how beautiful the display will be, until they actually start popping up.
So whether your planting bulbs in the ground or in containers, either way be prepared to be amazed with those fabulous colors against the barren landscape. And with their lovely foliage and beautiful blooms reaching for the sky…it’s like they’re shouting … “Spring is finally here…look what I brought you“!
So don’t hesitate, because now…yes fall..is the only time to get these spring flowering bulbs planted so you can have that statement spring garden .
Since fall planted bulbs develop their roots during the winter, they need to get enough winter chill, at least six weeks under 45°, for them to pop up and be at their peak. In our zone (5), early to mid October is a good time to start planting, the days are cooler and nights are beginning to really get chilly and these are ideal conditions for the bulbs.
First things first, before we get started, cuddle up in your most comfy chair or lounge, grab your favorite beverage (my personal preference is a nice wine) and then just read on.
If you decide fall bulbs are for you, then you can just go back and do the steps outlined …either way just relax and enjoy.
When most of us think of spring flowers we think of tulips , with such a wide variety to choose from no wonder there so popular and appear in almost every spring garden. But beware, the squirrels and deer seem to love them just as much as we do.
Another favorite is daffodils, with their beautiful blooms and delicate looking foliage, they truly bring a sense of elegance to the garden, what’s more these beauties are deer and squirrel proof. And we can’t forget hyacinths, when their fabulous fragrance permeates the air it’s truly a sign of springs arrival.
Like most good things, these bulbs do have a short bloom period of about 3 to 4 weeks for most, but they are extremely easy to plant, and their eye popping colors make such a beautiful display, it’s well worth the minimal effort it takes to grow them. And with the proper selection of bulbs, you can time the bloom from very early spring to early summer. But best of all, plant them once and they’ll come back for several years…plus they multiply,what a nice little bonus.
And by the way if you don’t have a garden, no problem, just plant the bulbs in large container or pot and you can still enjoy the rewards of these beauties , so there’s no reason for you to miss out on their colorful spring greeting. But for now we’ll be talking about planting the bulbs in the ground.
Where to Start ?
Choose a color scheme
Pick a maximum of 3 colors from: White, Red, Blue, Pink, Yellow, Purple, Blue ( light pink qualifies as pink…don’t make it more confusing that it needs to be) example: Purple hyacinths, red tulips, yellow daffodils.
It’s always better to plant in masses of color, take note while cruising through the catalogs or the web , you’ll find this to be the case. One or two yellow mixed with one or two purple.,.it really has no eye appeal, like you see something out of the corner of your eye, you know it’s there, but just not worth your attention.
So instead, have a group of 10-12 yellow and another group of 10-12 purple (or more if you like), see with that many….you can’t help but look.
Hardiness Zone : Find your hardiness zone this is important, it will help you determine if a certain plant is suitable for your zone . You can find this info on the web, usually once you find the site, you enter your zip code and that will tell you what zone you’re in.
Garden location : In the fall you can plant these spring bloomers in many places in the garden, since in most areas, the spring garden can be very sunny (and bulbs love the sun) as the leaves on the trees are not out yet.
So where you’ll be planting the bulbs will dictate what bulbs to choose and the height to choose. Select a site with lots of sun and rich well-drained soil. If needed, you can amend the soil by adding compost.
Timing When will they bloom? Try to choose different varieties to prolong the spring blooming. You can find tulips which bloom early, mid and late spring, this would give you blooms for almost 6 to 8 weeks. The variety’s are endless, and not limited to just tulips. So shop, shop, shop and get the most out of spring…show some splash (color, that is)!
Plan on Height Plant bulbs with various heights, this adds interest to the garden and gives them a chance to show off , and repeat this height theme through out your garden, if you have the space. Be bold, add some drama.
Front Row – “What a little cutie” ! Plant low growing bulbs in the front border of the garden. These can bloom at the same or different times, depending on your selections and how you want to display them. example: grape hyacinths, crocus.
When the weather warms , planting annuals or other short variety of perennials such a creeping phlox which will help hide the fading foliage.
Middle – “Hey, over here, look at me” !
Mid size growers should be planted in the middle of the garden, It’s a good idea to plant behind other mid size perennials so when they begin to grow, the perennials will hide the fading foliage of your spring bulbs. Example: tulips planted among perennials such as Shasta Daisy or Veronica ‘Glory’ Royal Candles.
Back Row – “Wowzer, what a beauty”! Plant the tallest ones here in the back row, again, behind your other perennials, to hide the fading foliage, perennial examples: Fritillaria, Joe Pye weed, Echinacea Purple coneflower
These Crown Imperials growing 3 to 4 feet tall with lavish foliage, will definitely give your garden that Wow factor. Try to plant a minimum of 3 of these, one would look silly by itself. They’re hardy in zones 5-8 and the bulbs should be planted sideways so the stem holes won’t catch the water, which cause’s them to rot.
Here’s a handy chart to help you through this process. Use this as a point of reference, the lower section gives you the approximate depth to plant, the upper section shows the mature height of the plants. It also show the average bloom time, hope this helps.
Plant in clusters Clusters or groups of the same color and type of plant make a much bolder impact and have great eye appeal. Avoid the onesy, twosy look. We talked about this above in color scheme section, but it’s worth repeating, it’s that important. Notice the photos above, they’re shown in clusters and it really shows the plants off beautifully.
Also you’ll be able to plant many more of the smaller bulbs in the same size space of the larger bulbs. Example: 12 to 18 crocus, in the same space as 3-4 tulip bulbs.
Layering You can plant small bulbs right on top of the larger bulbs (layered). This method gives the option of having blooms at the same or different times and can prolong the spring display by several weeks.
Have a Plan
Step 1 – Take a Cruise
Cruise through some catalogs or view the web and take notes of what catches your eye….jot them down…you’ll need to refer to this list when making your plan. Ask yourself these questions when you’re cruising:
What spring flowering bulb type has caught your eye , ex: tulips, alliums, hyacinths, (jot them down)?
What flowering combinations have caught your eye , ex: crocus, tulips, daffodils, (jot them down)?
What colors , or combination of colors, catch your eye (jot them down)?
This repetition will help you pick your top choices for your plan.
Step 2 – What really caught your eye?
Now that you have some ideas, let’s see what your favorites are, and again… jot your answers down.
What were the 3 types you picked the most (tulips, daffodils, etc.)?
What were the 3 colors you picked the most ?
Step 3 –The Nitty Gritty
Now let’s narrow it down to what really works for you. You now know what type of bulb and color(s) you want …this step is to get the basics details needed for your garden plan.
Go to your catalog or a web site and search for the bulb type (ex: tulips). This can be done by choosing a bulb, selecting a variety, example: “Pink Impression”, and reviewing the details.
Ask yourself these questions, for each bulb type, and again… jot your answers down
Blub Type (ex: tulip): ______________ Bulb Variety (name):_____________
Will they grow in your zone and your garden site (full sun, part sun, etc.)?
When will the bulbs bloom,?
What is the mature height?
Where will this bulb be planted?
____Front Row ____Middle row ____Back Row:
What area in the garden will you plant them ? ex: by the rose bushes?
How many bulbs will I need?
Will there be other plants to hide the fading bulb foliage?
Okay, your almost done, now lets get organized ….buying on the fly in gardening is usually never a good idea, just too much wasted time, effort and money.
Step 4 -Make a list
This is very important….I can’t stress this enough, it keeps you on track, saves money and avoids disappointment. It’s like shopping without a grocery list, you spend more, don’t get what you really need and have to go back another time to get those forgotten items…just what you need in an already overloaded schedule! Not only that, once in the nursery you will be overwhelmed with all the lovely picturesof the different plants…do you really need that extra stress!
So do yourself a favor, spend the 15 minutes or so now, prepare your shopping list, and you can thank me in the spring when you see these beauties in full bloom (I’ll tell you were to send the check later) .
Your list should include the following
Type of bulb..ex: tulip
Variety/Name example “Pink Impression”
Color you want
Tips for Quantity:
The smaller the bulb, the more you will need example: 12 to 18 crocus…to cover the same area as 3-4 tulip bulbs .
I tend to add 1/4 to 1/3 more bulbs than I need , of each type, just in case some fail to sprout. ex: 6 tulip bulbs I’ll add 2 more to my list = 8.
Step 5 – What to look for when buying bulbs.
In the fall you can find bulbs to purchase everywhere. But be sure to buy good quality bulbs, plump and firm. It’s always better to buy a few good quality bulbs as they multiply quickly and perform much better and have brighter colors and fuller blooms.
Avoid damaged, bruised, shriveled or cracked bulbs, they only lead to disappointment, so don’t set yourself up for failure.
6- Let’s go Shopping
Bring your shopping list and stick to it.
If they don’t have the variety you selected, just choose another with similar characteristics.
Look for plump, healthy bulbs
And relax, you’re doing just fine, all that’s left to do is plant those little puppies and then your done.
When to Plant Bulbs:
Usually early to mid -October here in the New England area, but check the time for your zone . You should plant at least six weeks before the ground freezes. This is most common in cold climates (zones 1-7).
Be sure to plant your bulbs soon after you purchase them (within a week), or store them in the fridge.
By keeping the bulbs in the fridge till planting this stops them from growing and gives you a little extra time to plant them…but don’t procrastinate too long….winter has a way of surprising us.
Warning: Be careful not to store them near fruit, especially apples, all ripening fruit gives off ethylene gas. Ethylene gas can damage or even kill the flower inside the bulb.
To learn more on how to plant bulbs in the garden, click here.
Well now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Gardening is suppose to be fun…so have fun!
Try to visualize how this spring garden will look…if you do your job taking care of the details…you will succeed!
You’ll be so proud when spring arrives and all your little buddies have popped up, with their gorgeous colors flashing before everyone’s eyes …WOW, what a beautiful sight that will be. They’ll have every right to show off, and you can flash a big smile and take all the credit for another job well done.